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Panama CUs learn advocacy benefits from Iowa league
DES MOINES, Iowa (10/29/09)--Advocacy and legislative activities topped the agenda for Panamanian credit union and trade association representatives who last week visited their counterparts at the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL). The visit was part of World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program.
Click to view larger image A delegation from Panama recently met with representatives from the Iowa Credit Union league (ICUL). From left, are Murray Williams, ICUL chief operating officer; Leonor Samudio, COFEP board secretary; Thom Belekevich, World Council of Credit Unions consultant; Jacinto Villarreal, COFEP CEO; Patrick Jury, ICUL president/CEO; and José Montenegro, COFEP chair. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Representatives from the Corporación Fondo de Estabilización y Garantía de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Panama, R.L., known as COFEP, met with the league to better understand and apply advocacy, and gain ideas for new products and services for Panamanian credit unions. Effective lobbying can be challenging in many Latin American countries, including Panama because interactions with government officials are often seen as signs of corruption or under-the-table dealings. COFEP sought ICUL’s advice on ways to keep legislative activities transparent and leverage member needs to positively influence legislation. “In the U.S., credit unions have found advocacy to be a vital component of our movement's success,” said Patrick Jury, ICUL president/CEO. “Everything credit unions do is impacted by the political process, so we must have a strong collective voice. Our goal is to help Panama’s credit unions feel more comfortable in this process and create more urgency in their engagement with elected officials.” The delegation from COFEP, which began its WOCCU partnership with ICUL in 2006, included José Montenegro, chairman; Leonor Samudio, board secretary; and Jacinto Villarreal, CEO. The meetings helped determine how different products and services offered by ICUL and its subsidiaries might be adapted for use in Panama. Also, the delegation studied cooperative business lending, matched savings programs using individual development accounts and ways to reach underserved populations. The delegates met with Iowa Corporate Central CU representatives to discuss CD Access, a liquidity product. CD Access is a mechanism that credit unions needing liquidity can use to buy certificates of deposit from credit unions with excess liquidity. The group discussed Iowa credit unions’ success with investing in certificates of deposit at other institutions and how that process could work in Panama. COFEP delegates will present a CD Access to their board of directors and may engage ICUL in a webinar early in 2010 to promote the product. The delegates also toured Iowa’s Capitol and visited 1st Gateway CU, Camanche, and EdCo Community CU, Des Moines. Pat Drennen, 1st Gateway president/CEO and ICUL chair, discussed the credit union’s goals for its products and services. 1st Gateway aims for each member to use 2.8 products and/or services by the year-end, Drennen said. The credit union also analyzes service popularity for future planning. The visit concluded with a planning session in which COFEP, ICUL and WOCCU mapped the next steps for the partnership in 2010. These steps may include a translated webinar on CD Access and/or cooperative business lending, a credit union-to-credit union partnership and a return visit to Panama by an ICUL delegation.
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